(Note – this is a repost of a blog from my last visit to Asia in 2016. I am currently traveling in China again, but unable to blog until next week. So please enjoy this post again, and watch for a new Surprising China post coming soon.)
Spectacular novel by very young yet brilliant author Benjamin – her second effort and she really hit it out of the ballpark with The Immortalists.
I get giddy with bookie happiness when I find a novel with a unique and fresh plot – and that is decidedly what you get with The Immortalists.
If you were told when you were a child the exact date you would die, how might that information change the way you live? This is the theme of this brilliant family story…a story of children who carry the weight of this knowledge, a story of families with a burden to bare, and a story of a prophecy that will haunt the lives of four siblings for decades.
Sweeping in both scope and and ambition, Benjamin creates lovable characters, heartfelt and passionate human beings whose lives carry forward trailblazing the deep powerful prediction and what to do with this cognizance.
The Immortalists core question focuses on the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, religion and afterlife and most of all, family and aging.
I loved this novel and look forward to reading more by Chloe Benjamin.
Even after all the flights I have taken, I still don’t enjoy it. And our flight to Shanghai is 13 hours – one of the longest we have had. We will fly from Seattle to Shanghai non-stop on Delta Airlines. How to prepare for a long flight? With all the flights I’ve taken, I have a system.
I don’t like taking sleeping pills, because I am just too drowsy throughout the following days, so I have developed a a long-flight preparation plan. Even when the flight is not 13 hours (most of our flights are 3-6 hours) I practice the following flight preparation plan:
Two-Three days before;
No alcohol and no spicy foods. Eat healthy, low sodium and easy to digest foods.
Drink lots of water
Moisturize my skin
One day before;
Make sure my carry-on is well organized and includes the following; passport, earplugs, headphones, eyemask, water bottle, Ibuprofen, motion sickness medicine, chapstick, moisturizer, neck support, wet wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste
Get a good night’s sleep – limit late day screen time
Do all of the above from two-days before
Day of Flight;
All of the above
Get up as early as I can but limit caffeine
Drink a lot of water in the hours before boarding
Set my watch to the destination time
Dress in non-binding clothes including shoes and socks or be sure to pack a pair of socks. Wear a sweater that can be easily put on and off and used as a blanket.
I never wear my contacts on the flight. I always wear my glasses.
Greet my flight attendant and be kind to them. Not only do they deserve it they might be more inclined to help if I need something during the flight.
After I board;
Organize my space before take off so I know where my things are including earplugs, water, headphones, neck pillow etc. I also use wet wipes or sanitizer and wipe down my tray table and armrests as soon as I sit down.
I like to support my feet and either do that with an inflatable foot rest or my backpack.
Take two ibuprofen with water
Look at my watch and visualize the place I’m going and the time of day it is there…see myself there.
Find a meditation station on the in-flight audio or iTunes and begin listening to the calming voice and music.
If I want to eat before sleeping, I choose a light, non-spicy meal and have a non-caffeinated non-alcoholic drink. I never drink wine because it dries me out.
After the meal I go to the toilet, moisturize in the bathroom, brush my teeth and use my chapstick too.
Back at my seat I settle in. Get cozy and warm. Check my watch and think about what time it is where I’m going. Find my meditation music and sit back. Clear my mind of everything or think about fun things I want to do when I arrive. Think about my breathing – like in yoga breath deep from the belly. Relax my jaw. Relax my shoulders. Think about restful sleep.
If I wake up, I drink water. I take a walk to stretch. I take more ibuprofen. I moisturize and use chapstick. Then I settle back in again with the restful music.
This is my best advice for long haul flights. Sometimes I watch a movie if I’m having trouble falling asleep. I never sleep soundly, but I do arrive relaxed and not too disheveled. On arrival I always try to stay awake until a normal bedtime for my destination. Luckily for us, we arrive in Shanghai in the early evening. We should be able to go to bed and hopefully wake up ready to go on our first full-day in China.
I have purchased some compression socks to try this flight. This is the first time I have done that but I know many people swear by them. So I’ll give it a try.
I welcome your suggestions for making a long flight tolerable. Please comment below. If you like our blog, please pin and share. Thanks!
Here we go again. When this all started in June 2016 we said we would either be gone for six months or six years. Well, it looks like we have found a way to make this travel life work, and I expect we will continue well beyond six years. It’s time for our around the world adventure year four.
I have learned so much since we started this adventure. But it’s probably not what you are thinking. Sure I’ve learned how to get good deals, how to maneuver public transit, how to pack and how to say thank you in ten languages.
But those are all technicalities. Not the soul of the journey. Because really, what I have witnessed, experienced and felt the most blessed about is the way this adventure has changed me deep inside. Serendipity.
Watching the sunrise and the moon set at the same time on top of the most peaceful and serene mountains in Galicia, on the final days of my walk across Spain – I experienced deep gratitude.
Conversing without sharing a language with a tiny and precious old man in a backwater village deep in Bangladesh, a man who had nothing to give but wanted to serve us tea – I was humbled.
Having a monk come out of the temple and invite us in for a special tour in Sri Lanka. Sharing with us his temple as his pride for it beamed light out his fingertips and then him blessing us quietly and sincerely for our continued safe journey – I was exalted.
Meeting a tiny Himba girl in Namibia and watching her smile up at Arne with her face full of wonder and awe. I was in love.
We have watched people so different from those in the USA embracing their cultures, their foods, their history with love and understanding of each other – I was astonished.
I am secure in my belief that you can never understand the world, or its many problems, unless you travel. You cannot pass judgement on anyone, anywhere on this earth if you are doing so without ever leaving your own country.
I know this as fact. And more than anything, this is why we continue. Do not fear for us, we are careful. Do not question us we are smart. This lifestyle is not for everyone, but if you wanted it, you too could do it … and you would never be the same.
So once again we depart. Time to say farewell. It’s time for our around the world adventure year four. Our first leg was 22 months. Our second was nine months. And this one – 3.0 – will also be nine months from September to June.
After that – who knows?
We’ve seen a total of 96 countries (some of those before we started the Grand Adventure) and we have rarely returned to a country. With 3.0 itinerary nearly complete, it’s clear to us that we are now tackling less touristy countries, more remote and more exciting – those are our favorites.
We can’t wait. So for all of those who have been asking the where, when, why, and how of our itinerary, here it is. We hope you will follow along. We welcome your questions.
Note – we are usually booked about six months in advance. We are not spontaneous travelers. That is not our style. We are in a constant state of planning as it is, one of the more difficult parts of our journey.
China – September – Booked
We have been to China before and we loved it. Five years ago we traveled to South Korea and China. Visiting Beijing and Xian I was enchanted with the history, the food and the mystique of China. So it’s time to go back. We will visit Shanghai first, then take a river cruise on the Yangtze. We had reservations and plans to spend a week in Hong Kong, but this week we cancelled those. This is the first time on our Grand Adventure that we felt it was unsafe enough to change our plans. Hopeful we will visit Hong Kong in the future.
In Shanghai and on the Yangtze we are on a private tour.
Instead of Hong Kong we are headed to…
Taiwan – September -Booked
COUNTRY NUMBER 97
We actually had discussed going to Taiwan early on in our planning, but the flights were expensive. Funny though, booking flights today it was quit inexpensive. So Taipei here we come. The time we would have had in Hong Kong (6 days) will now be in Taipei. We plan to book a food tour and a cooking class- exactly like we had planned in Hong Kong. I don’t know that much about Taipei, so it will an adventure.
Malaysia – October – Booked
We have only ever transited through Malaysia but have heard such wonderful things about this country we can’t wait to spend an entire month there. First we visit northern Malaysia and Borneo to see the orangutans ( a bucket list for me). Then we have a week in Kuala Lumpur followed by almost three weeks on the island of Langkawi.
We are in hotels in Borneo and Kuala Lumpur and in an Airbnb on Langkawi.
Myanmar – November – Booked
COUNTRY NUMBER 98
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has only been open to tourists since 2012, and the tourism industry has been slow to grow due to all the much bigger Asian players out there. But this is exactly the kind of destination we are interested in…experiencing the history and culture before it gets run over by tourists.
We will be in four different locations over an entire month, taking our time to really slow travel in Myanmar. We have two weeks in a hotel perched on famous Lake Inle. It may be too much time, but if it is we will sit back, relax and read.
Oman – December – Booked
COUNTRY NUMBER 99
Oman is consistently showing up in lists of where to travel now – particularly where to travel if you don’t want to be with hordes of tourists, tour buses and cruise ships. And that sounds right up our alley.
We will spend ten days in Muscat, the biggest city in Oman, with some day tours planned as well as renting a car to do some exploration on our own of this small, beautiful, historic and safe Middle East country.
Kenya – December – Booked
COUNTRY NUMBER 100
We have skirted Kenya on our African travels, not intentionally, but for some reason have not stepped foot there. So we plan to spend our Christmas holiday lounging on the beach in Kenya.
We have done two safaris in the past (as well as two additional Elephant safaris) so we will not do a safari in Kenya. Instead we have a beach Airbnb and we plan to relax and enjoy the side of Kenya fewer people visit.
Mauritius – January – Booked
COUNTRY NUMBER 101
Well we love a remote island and have had some of our best travel experiences on tiny islands in the Indian Ocean (Seychelles, Maldives) and so this time we will venture to the teeny island nation of Mauritius. Here we plan to really get ensconced in the community, spending six weeks enjoying an Airbnb, the pool and not a whole lot more.
Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana – February – Partially Booked
Our plan is to visit Zambia to see Victoria Falls, one of many bucketlist waterfalls I am working my way through. We will be staying in Livingstone Zambia but the falls border Zimbabwe and it’s easy to walk across the border.
Not as close but close enough for a day trip is Botswana, and we will take a guided to tour to Botswana while we are in the region.
Uganda – February – Booked
Ever since I saw Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist I have dreamed of trekking to see the Mountain Gorillas. Mountain Gorillas are NOT FOUND anywhere in captivity in the world, and they are endangered. The only way to see these magnificent primates is to hike into the mountains of either Uganda or Rwanda.
Instead of having a 60th birthday party for me in 2020, I chose to spend the money and go see the Gorillas. I doubt I will regret it.
Rwanda – February – Not Booked
Well, we are in the neighborhood, so why not pop over for a quick visit to Rwanda – the safest country in all of Africa. Following the genocide in 1994, Rwanda has made a remarkable comeback. Twenty five years later Rwanda has a growing tourism industry, thoughtful memorials and museums explaining the atrocities and a welcoming culture. We will visit the cosmopolitan city of Kigali and spend several days on Lake Kivu.
Israel – March – Partially Booked
When I was a little girl I went to summer camp. My young and fun camp counselor had just returned from visiting Israel and she told us so many things about the country, which at the time I knew nothing about. Fast forward fifty years and I am finally going to see it for myself – a dream come true.
We plan to spend 16 days in the country, about ten days with a car traveling to both ends of this small country and then another six days in Jerusalem. We want to take our time and really experience this remarkable land.
Armenia, Georgia – March – Not Booked
COUNTRIES 108 & 109
Like Oman, Armenia and Georgia are two countries few people visit and yet both are safe, welcoming and full of remarkable history. It’s time to discover them.
Our plan is to spend about a week (maybe a little less) in each country and travel by overnight train from Armenia to Georgia. The weather may still be cool in late March, but we are excited to see more of the former Soviet Union and learn how these resilient people have recaptured their culture, religion and history.
Cyprus – April – Not Booked
Gonna kick back for a couple weeks on the island of Cyprus another underrated destination of glorious beaches and remarkable history – and the birthplace of Aphrodite.
Very inexpensive with few tourists, this island off the coast of Turkey should be a wonderful respite.
Malta – April – Not Booked
We will spend April and May relaxing on the island of Malta, another up and coming tourism destination we want to see before it gets too crowded. This beautiful island is autonomous and has sat peacefully and often unnoticed in the Mediterranean just off of Sicily and Tunisia.
We will stay in an Airbnb here and hopefully have warm late spring weather to enjoy the sand and sea.
And then what?
Okay – that is as far as we know for now. Following Malta and as summer emerges in Europe we are considering a car and train trip throughout much of the Eastern European countries we have yet to see; Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This should take up all of May. But details are still developing here.
From Estonia we hope to head to Finland and spend time exploring the northern areas. By this time it should be middle of June. We are currently debating our options from here…Greenland perhaps? Or maybe a Rhone River cruise in France. Perhaps hiking in Scotland. It’s too soon to know.
Our plan is to be back in the USA and our Villa by the third or fourth week of June. And then we start planning for The Grand Adventure 4.0.
Count down to lift off…five days. Yes indeed it is a fabulous life. My Fab Fifties Life.
Wow. This book. I’m not usually one to go for a “thriller” book, but this story sucked me in and I was riveted.
Similar to novels like Gone Girl (but not as good), Pieces of Her develops a plot of twists and turns, whodunnit and “who the heck are you”, as Andrea Olive struggles to determine the true identity of her mother.
When Andrea and her mother Laura find themselves the witnesses to a horrific crime, a crime that leads Laura to kill the perpetrator at the scene before he can murder more people, Andrea’s world comes tumbling down.
A video tape of the terrorist and his demise at Laura’s hands circulates on the news, and with it Laura’s secret life unravels and her enemies catch up to her after decades of being on the run.
Andrea is thrust into this mystery as she runs from the danger, finding a trail of a woman, her mother, whom she never knew. Who is this woman and why has she spent her life in hiding? Andrea begins to put the puzzle together bit by bit, finding herself in danger but determined to uncover the identity her mother walked away from decades before.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. Read last week’s review of The Birth of Venus.
It’s almost time to go again. I’ve been very busy restocking all my travel needs, including refreshing my travel wardrobe. After three years of traveling, I still feel I can do better with my clothing choices and pack less. So once again as we depart for the third time, I’m narrowing down the travel wardrobe. My goal is to carry the perfect mix and match wardrobe that fits my style, my schedule and my budget.
Last year, my Travel Wardrobe blog was a big hit, so I thought I would write again about what I am bringing with me as we embark on our fourth year of travel. When we left the first year I had way too many things with me. It was a hard lesson learned. Last year for the Grand Adventure 2.0 I based my wardrobe around black and white with splashes of colorful mix and match items. But I’m doing it a bit differently this year.
For the Grand Adventure 3.0 I’ve chosen bottoms (both long and short pants) in black, khaki and navy. These staples will be the basis of most of my wardrobe. I have t-shirts, tank tops and blouses I can mix and match in dozens of ways with these bottoms. I have chosen bright colors that compliment my skin and hair color such as red, navy, coral, orange and turquoise.
Because I wear dresses a lot, especially in hot weather, I have purchased four new dresses. These are also in blue/chambray tones, bright oranges and corals and one black plaid dress.
Our itinerary this year (blog coming about this next Friday) has us visiting several Muslim countries as well as Israel where thoughtful conservative dress is both important and respectful. I have chosen some dresses with longer sleeves and some long sleeve but lightweight tops that I can wear with the navy, black and khaki pants.
As always my suitcase will include hiking clothes (long and short pants and tops), running clothes for both hot and cool weather, and yoga clothes, as well as a coat, sweatshirt, hat and gloves. I have one cardigan sweater (red), one pashmina (also red) and one scarf (teal blue).
I often get asked why I like linen so much for travel, considering how much it wrinkles. But for me, in hot climates, linen is the most breathable and comfortable fabric on earth. I sometimes steam wrinkles out in the shower, iron them, or hey just wear them wrinkled. Because my own body heat works the wrinkles out in no time. Linen is the fabric for me and my Grand Adventure wardrobe.
I didn’t buy a new swimsuit, because both my one piece and my two piece are in good condition. I have a new swimsuit coverup that I love and a new Kaftan to replace the one I wore until it fell apart. The Kaftan and the coverup serve like a bathrobe or lounge wear, in addition to beach wear. Both are colorful and comfortable. I also pack one cotton nightgown.
Underneath it all I have two running bras (Wacoal from Nordstrom) that are new. I have four everyday bras (Dominque and Victorias Secret). I purchased Chantelle lightweight quick dry panties from Nordstrom. I also have two pairs of bloomers (one from Bikie Girl Bloomers the other from Undersummers). I love both of these for wearing under dresses in hot weather to avoid that horrible thigh chafing so many women deal with (including me).
And what about the feet? Well, as usual, deciding what shoes to bring is my most difficult task. I have my running shoes that also serve as hiking shoes. I have a very comfortable tan colored walking sandal by Vionic that I can wear with most things and is great for my plantar fasciitis. I have a black flat sandal and my Keen’s which are great walking shoes and can also be worn in the water. That’s four pairs. Pretty sure that is all I am taking. That’s the fewest pairs I have ever packed.
To top it off I have a wide brimmed straw hat, a cloth floppy brimmed hat, my hiking hat and a baseball cap. I also have several headbands that I like to wear for running or to the beach.
So my entire wardrobe for nine months consists 29 pieces to mix and match (pants, shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, dresses, blouses, sweater and jackets), 7 workout pieces, 5 hiking pieces, 4 pairs of shoes, 4 bras, 7 panties, 1 coat and one sweatshirt. In one suitcase. Boom.
I’m packing fewer earrings and necklaces too…I have just a couple of each that are my go-to for both comfort and style. Everything else will stay behind this year.
We’ve added a few new non-clothing items this year including a travel yoga mat, an REI nylon hammock that folds up tiny and a travel steamer/iron. These are all things we have discussed in the past we would like to have. These items join several other wonderful travel essentials such as our collapsible cooler, our titanium french press and battery charger. To see the entire list check out our newly updated blog What’s in My Suitcase.
Speaking of suitcase – The Grand Adventure 3.0 continues with the REI roller bags we purchased more than three years ago. We had to replace the wheels on one bag but other than that these bags have been worth every penny, serving us well on 95 flights so far. In addition Arne has his backpack (also three years old) and I have a carryon roller bag that I purchased last year. I also have a large “purse” that I stuff full on flight day but use a small over the shoulder bag for every day. And finally we really like our day pack that folds up tiny and weighs nearly nothing.
We depart in less than two weeks and I have begun to organize and sort all of the above as well as our medicines, first aid, toiletries and other items that we will take on our journey.
PLEASE watch for a blog next Friday for our FULL ITINERARY for The Grand Adventure 3.0. We are so excited to share the incredible places we are going. Countdown to lift off 11 days!
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This is a beautifully rich tale of life and death, love and art in Florence Italy during the tumultuous 15th century. Told in first person from the viewpoint of a young Florentine girl, but told as her final life’s work as an old woman.
The young girl, Alessandra Cecchi, daughter of a rich textile merchant in Florence, knows she isn’t like her sister or other girls around her. Her passion of art and learning overpowers her, and alienates her from the life of sewing and searching for a rich husband.
Alessandra is also tall, awkward and not beautiful like her sister. Called a “giraffe” by her hateful sibling Tomaso, Allesandra searches for meaning to her life.
Alessandra falls for “the painter” who has been commissioned to paint the ceiling of her families chapel. But she marries a chosen husband “Cristoforo” who turns out to only have married Alessandra to appear heterosexual, which he is not.
During a terribly violent time in Florence as the church and the people battle for control, Alessandra lives a tumultuous life of her own not able to love the one she wants.
After I finished the book I spent some time in a discussion group about the book, interested in what other readers theories were about if “the painter” in the story is supposed to be a real person from the era. Certainly the book weaves real characters with fictional ones, and towards the end of the book there is a reference to Michelangelo that made me think this is who it was supposed to be. In the discussion group there was a wide range of strong opinions, and nobody seemed to know for sure. Theories included Michelangelo, DaVinci and several other 15th century painters.
Only Sarah Durant knows for sure.
A beautiful story about a period in history I knew little about.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Four stars for The Birth of Venus by Sarah Durant.
Read last week’s review of The Clockmaker’s Daughter.